Sharp-eyed Jim Geraghty at NRO's Campaign Spot draws a doozy out of the Can They Be Serious? Department. A Danish newspaper (Politiken) posted an editorial headlined "Obama Greater Than Jesus: The U.S. President -- the practical saviour of our times." It must simply be reproduced to be believed:
He is provocative in insisting on an outstretched hand, where others only see animosity.
His tangible results in the short time that he has been active – are few and far between. His greatest results have been created with words and speeches – words that remain in the consciousness of their audience and have long-term effects.
He comes from humble beginnings and defends the weak and vulnerable, because he can identify himself with their conditions.
And no we are not thinking of Jesus Christ, whose birthday has just been celebrated - - but rather the President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama.
For some time now, comparisons between the two have been a tool of cynical opinion that quickly became fatigued of the rapture that Obama instilled prior to and after the presidential election last year.
Leave it to the web site The Daily Beast to publish a lie-filled attack on the Catholic Church the day before Christmas. The author of the hate-filled piece is James Carroll, one of the country's foremost haters of the Catholic Church. He an anti-Catholic zealot. Period. (Is it any surprise that he also writes for the Boston Globe?)
At face value, it seems harmless enough. According to ABC "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts, every Christmas the show features various "spiritual leaders" to talk about the role of faith in their lives. And this year's Christmas Day broadcast was no exception.
"And now, it is a ‘GMA' tradition on Christmas Day, to talk about the role of faith in all of our lives," Roberts said. "We gathered a group of spiritual leaders from different traditions to talk about the importance of belief, in good times and belief in bad times, too."
On Christmas, I’ll offer a word of encouragement on one article I recently found. On December 18, New York Times art reviewer Ken Johnson wrote a largely favorable review of a current exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of 124 paintings on "The Life of Christ" by French painter James Tissot. He said a presentation of watercolor paintings of the New Testament caused a sensation in Paris in 1894. Two years later, the illustrated Tissot Bible became an international best seller.
Other paintings range from prosaic to visionary. The close-up of Salome gloating over the weirdly illuminated head of John the Baptist is wonderfully grotesque; the image of Jesus being carried aloft by a shadowy Satan is hair-raising. The scene in which Jesus stands alone before Pilate in an expansive stone room has a terrible pathos. That of Joseph at his workbench, mooning over his pregnant fiancée, is touching. You don’t have to be a devout Christian to get caught up in the story and its sad inevitability.
Inside the studios of talk radio and cable news, the hot talk about a "war on Christmas" has cooled somewhat in 2009. But the controversies over Christmas, which seem as eternal as religion itself, continue on a number of different levels.
There’s the schoolhouse war over politeness to religious minorities – and even more unnecessarily, the altogether non-religious. This is the kind where many parents sit through inane "winter" chorus concerts at both public and private schools where there are more songs about sleds and skis than about herald angels and newborn kings. In some cases, students even salute the holidays of religious minorities (including the recently invented Kwanzaa) while excluding any mention of Christmas.
At my son’s "holiday" middle-school party, students performed skits from "Star Wars" and "West Side Story" and there was even a tribute to Michael Jackson. Not one popular Christmas carol was sung all night. (Their version of a "Silent Night," come to think of it.)
The headline writers of Washingtonpost.com ought to win an award for the dumbest question of December. In a sentence promoting their discussion board for "The Secularist’s Corner," they wrote: "One in four Americans believe in 'spiritual forces' like ghosts. Is belief in the supernatural unlike the traditional story of Christmas?"
Is the traditional nativity story of Jesus unlike the story of... Casper the Friendly Ghost? Is the writer here an adult?
The headline is also goofy: "Christmas ghosts abound." Susan Jacoby, the unbeliever who hosts "The Secularist’s Corner," didn’t ask this question in her discussion-starter. She did suggest that Americans will believe all kinds of nonsense. Her headline was "You name it, Americans believe it." As an atheist, she doesn’t see any contradiction in embracing Jesus and New Age beliefs. It's implied they’re equally wacky:
It is with heavy heart that I report the following: Two great CBS television dramas, NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, went the way of Law and Order last night (hat tip to NewsBusters reader Chris Reising). If you’re a fan and have not seen last night’s episode, be warned that this blog contains plot spoilers. [audio clip available here]
Now is the time of year when the network dramas are running the “Happy Holidays” message episodes. The NCIS franchise, a sort of military CSI show, ran with this message in each of last night’s episodes – with a twist. On NCIS, a young Marine is found murdered. He is found to be a recent convert to Islam (formerly a Christian), and the son of a retired Christian Marine chaplain. As the plot progresses, we find that the widow (also a Christian) has been, shall we say, unfaithful during her husband’s deployment. The father (the chaplain) has been paying his son’s unit members to harass him into quitting the Marines. And the murderer, we find, is the brother of the deceased.
Got an idealized notion of Christmas? A cherished memory, or a favorite carol or story? The simple smell of pine needles in your living room? Do you insist on celebrating the birth of the savior?
If so, you’re at war, like it or not.
The main war on Christmas – we’ll call it the conventional war – has been well-documented, and it goes on, with victories and defeats for both sides. In Loudoun County, Va. on Dec. 1, the Board of Supervisors reversed a ban on religious holiday displays on the courthouse lawn. (The one supervisor who voted “no” said, “I am concerned that this motion would turn the courthouse grounds into a public circus.”) Meanwhile, in Arizona, public school children remain unable to use Christmas themes when decorating ornaments for the Capitol Christmas tree.
There is plenty to report from the conventional front. But there are other fronts. There is the sexualization of the holiday, either in service to commercialism or out of the lefty arts community’s desire to be “transgressive” (read, vile and offensive). And there are the attempts squash the mysteries and magic that accompany even a traditional secular Christmas.
So from “living” lingerie mannequins to Frosty’s “porn collection,” and from the lies you tell about Santa to our president’s “non-religious” observance, here are some dispatches from the war on Christmas, 2009.
In what is easily the dopiest question I've read from a religion blogger in a while, Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear closed her December 8 The Seeker blog post by asking readers if "dissenters" like pro-choice nun Sister Donna Quinn of Chicago "strengthen the church." In November, Quinn went public with news that she has "been rebuked for escorting patients into a Hinsdale clinic that provides abortions."
In "Pro-choice nun still fighting for women's care," Brachear explained how Quinn "is not backing down from her support of abortion rights, applauding the defeat of an amendment today that would have added restrictions to the health care bill for women seeking abortions."
Oh, it gets worse. Quinn apparently used the Virgin Mary as cover for sanctifying her pro-abortion views:
Apparently the Catholic Church is welcome when it promotes causes near and dear to liberal hearts, but it's shown the door as soon as it takes a hard line against controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion.
Robert McCartney of the Washington Post admitted as much in his Dec. 10 column about the effect legalized same-sex "marriage" could have on the charitable activities of the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.
"I view the church as a tremendous force for good in the world in many ways, especially in its advocacy for the poor and against violence. The U.S. church supports more ambitious healthcare reform than Barack Obama, does, for instance," he wrote.
"But I part with the church - as many of its members do - on many of positions on sexual issues. Regrettably, those are the ones that religious leaders often seem to care the most about."
McCartney, argued that the diocese is allowing a "dispute over employment benefits," which he claimed "would have little practical effect," to force it to "give up doing valuable, publicly funded work helping the homeless and sick" because the Church does not "want to miss the opportunity, however small, to oppose homosexuals' right to wed."
Of course the encounter in question is that of literary critic Mary Gordon, a "liberal, feminist intellectual" who happens to be Catholic, is not a trained scriptural scholar, and admits to having "never actually read the full Gospel" prior to undertaking her "Reading Jesus" project.
"But off she goes anyhow, girded only by her considerable intelligence and disarming sincerity, determined to look squarely at the Gospels, how she reads them and how she maintains what she calls her 'hopeful faith,'" Charles notes approvingly, adding that Gordon's professed disinterest in converting readers or making doctrinal claims is:
Anthony Stevens-Arroyo of the Washington Post’s On Faith blog took left-wing moral equivalency to new lows in a November 24 post where he compared Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hassan to General Patton and World War I hero Alvin York. What does this mass murderer have in common with two American heroes, in Stevens-Arroyo’s view? All three recited what he labeled “bad prayers.”
Matthew Archbold of the Creative Minority Report blog devoted an entire post on Monday to picking apart the Washington Post writer’s arguments. Before Stevens-Arroyo compared Hassan to Patton and York, he cited other examples of such “bad prayers.”
For several days NewsBusters has been chronicling media outrage over Catholic bishop Tom Tobin asking pro-choice Patrick Kennedy to refrain from the sacrament of communion.
In all of their indignation over a church being involved in politics, they must have forgotten about the recent past when President Obama asked churches to help him push government-mandated healthcare. When ministers stepped into the politicial discussion back then, media outlets were more than willing to celebrate it.
In late August of this year, President Obama held a meeting with left-leaning religious leaders to convince them that government mandated healthcare was a "moral imperative," and that ministers should be involved in educating their fold on the issue.
The media protrayed the meeting as a great idea and praised the ministers who attended. MSNBC ran an article from CQ writer Jane Norman that gushed with excitement over sermons laced with politics and prayer meetings aimed at congressional districts:
The Boston Globe predictably editorialized on Wednesday against Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin for "targeting" Rep. Patrick Kennedy ("Rhode Island bishop errs in targeting Patrick Kennedy.") They predictably cavil that bishops don’t punish politicians who support the death penalty and wars.
What sets this leaden chunk of argument apart is its boast the bishop's attention is "ironic" since the Kennedy family have long been a flock of terrific, devout Catholics that drew others into the church. They have been virtual magnets of holiness. Yes, you may pick up your jaw now:
Among Catholic politicians, Patrick Kennedy is both an obvious target, because of his prominence, and a deeply ironic one, because of the decades of loyalty and support the Kennedy family has given to the Catholic Church. Though they may not always have lived strictly by church teachings, Patrick’s father, uncles, aunts, and grandmother were all devout Catholics whose intensive commitment to worship drew others into the church. The Kennedys accorded priests and bishops an honored position in their lives. Edward Kennedy’s dying appeal to the pope proves that the church was never far from the late senator’s mind.
"For the record, our third story is neither ridiculing nor disputing [Sarah Palin's] religious beliefs. It is purely an attempt to discern exactly what those beliefs constitute, so that the voters of 2012 know exactly what they`re getting."
Such was amazingly uttered by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Tuesday night.
Bear in mind that we are almost three years away from Election Day 2012, and most political analysts on both sides of the aisle don't believe former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is going to run for President then.
Regardless, the "Countdown" host actually spent over five minutes examining -- and, contrary to his assertion -- ridiculing her religious beliefs.
In fact, the disparagement began right from the get-go with how Olbermann described the object of his disaffection (video embedded below the fold with full transcript, h/t Story Balloon):
"Don we now our gay apparel" took on a different meaning during Joy Behar's CNN Headline News program Nov. 24.
According to the panel Behar spoke with, the holidays are a great time for gay people to come out of the closet. They are also a good time to knock religion and push the gay agenda.
Actor Jeffrey Self, one of the three gay panelists, told Behar "I think also [coming out] is a nice distraction from all the other drama that's taking place in your house. Everybody's already mad at each other."
"I think it's the perfect time to do it," claimed comedienne and lesbian Judy Gold. "Because then you get it over with and everyone is already there. So they don't have to call each other and say, did you hear?"
Behar and her pals also managed to mock Christianity, insult the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, play the break-up of a marriage because of homosexuality for laughs, and proclaimed Adam Lambert a "genius" for his sexually explicit American Music Awards performance and denounced ABC as "cowardly" for pulling the plug on Lambert's live "Good Morning America" appearance. Behar further claimed her "philosophy" was "that a parent should say to the child, ‘are you gay' when they see them playing with dolls when they're boys."
Apparently MSNBC's Chris Matthews doesn't want Catholics involved in the political process at all - especially when it comes to abortion. Earlier this month the "Hardball" host declared "The clergy should stay off Capitol Hill." Last night, he accused Thomas Tobin, bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, of "telling public officials how to set public policy," "stepping beyond moral teaching," and "basically assuming an authority" because the bishop requested that Rhode Island Democrat Rep. Patrick Kennedy not take communion due to his support for abortion.
Matthews' based his accusations on a portion of a speech on religion delivered by then Sen. John F. Kennedy in which he stated:
I believe in an America that is official neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will, directly or indirectly, upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.
Bishop Tobin briefly responded that the Church does not want to "dictate what the public policy should be in the United States from a purely Catholic doctrinal point of view," but "what [it] is trying to do, most of all, is instill good human values but also have Catholics who are in political office be faithful to the dictates of the Church and the dictates of their conscience and the teachings of the Church."
This is the fifth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics:
The use of "Christmas shopping season" vs. "holiday shopping season" (note how the AP photo at right uses "holiday" and not "shopping," even though there is a C-C-, Chr-Chr-Christmas tree in the picture).
The frequency of Christmas and holiday layoff references.
I have done three sets of simple Google News searches each year in late November, followed by identical searches roughly two and four weeks later.
The cumulative results of all three search sets during the past four years are in this graphic.
Year-to-year changes have often been subtle. That is anything but the case with the results of the first set of searches I did at roughly 10 a.m. ET. In the context of the current economy, they are stunning, and very revealing:
Last night the Baltimore City Council became the first in the nation to pass a law that would require pro-life crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) to post in writing disclaimers noting that they do not provide abortion services or contraceptives nor refer women to persons or clinics who do.
Reporting the story in the November 24 paper, the Baltimore Sun's Julie Scharper quoted the bill's author and council president Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) heralding the passage of the bill as "a step towards making sure that women have the information they need to make the right decision for their health and their future."
Yet Scharper failed to point out to readers that Rawlings-Blake actually voted against an amendment that would also apply her standard to abortion clinics. Reported George P. Matysek Jr. of The Catholic Review on November 17:
Monday’s NBC Nightly News took up the story of liberal Congressman Patrick Kennedy’s public feud with the Catholic Church, and NBC’s Ron Allen implied something improper in how "the Catholic Church is flexing its religious and political muscle."
When Catholic officials endorse liberal initiatives like immigration reform or oppose an execution, the networks don’t worry about the separation of church and state. But with traditional stands against abortion and gay marriage in the crossfire, NBC’s screen graphic asked if the church was "Crossing the Line?" A secular-left lobbyist accused the church of being "not above spiritual and political blackmail."
NBC even used footage from Nicholas Ballasy’s video interview with Kennedy for Cybercast News Service, a news outlet affiliated with the MRC. But the brief snippet took out some of Kennedy’s hostility against the church for "fanning the flames of dissent and discord" over the "absolute red herring" of abortion. Here’s how NBC portrayed it:
On today's Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell called the Roman Catholic bishop who barred Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) from taking communion a "political hack."
Interestingly, Mika Brzezinski had a totally different take, arguing the controversy was not about the Church but about Kennedy publicizing the matter in a play to his base. Though Bishop Thomas Tobin sent his letter to Kennedy more than two years ago, its contents didn't come to light until Kennedy recently revealed them to a Rhode Island newspaper.
Blogger Amanda Hess of the Washington City Paper suggests a new story for The Washington Post on the gay left waging war on the Catholic Church over the city council's imposition of "gay marriage" rules without a referendum:
A new Web site hopes to use the oldest trick in the book to combat the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage: A good, old-fashioned forced outing!
At ChurchOuting.org, you’re invited to scroll through a list of every Achbishop, Bishop, and Reverend in the Archdiocese of Washington, zero in on one you know is gay, and then submit your “detailed account of how you know the priest in question is being hypocritical through his silence.”
As if we needed more proof that Christians are the only group left in America that it’s safe to make fun of. A popular YouTube video purports to be an ad for a Wii-like game system called “Mass: We Pray,” which will be available at Easter 2010. In reality, the anti-religious video is a commercial for a new video game.
In it, viewers see a family at home as a saccharine-voiced narrator reminiscent of the one from the old “Mr. Bill” skit on “Saturday Night Live,” says, “A family shouldn't have to wait until Sunday to worship the Lord. Now you can go to church every day without leaving your home.”
The family’s two children are then shown pantomiming the movements of priests and congregants during mass, using “the wireless cross controller,” a large white plastic cross with a rosary bead strap. “Every twist of the hand and nuance of a blessing is recreated onscreen,” says the narrator. The point, he explains, is to collect “grace points,” and move a number of pews toward the altar. “Then trade in your Grace points to unlock the Holy Mysteries. Add the kneeler accessory, and get off the couch and into the action.” Players can download the “seven sacraments and holy rituals expansion pack.”
Last year, Sally Quinn of the Washington Post found it "devastating" on PBS that Barack Obama would abandon his sulfurous religious mentor Jeremiah Wright, a man "lionized by some of the great white theologians in this country." Quinn questioned how Wright’s allegedly racist opponents can call themselves Christians: They "go to their white churches, and you wonder how they can call themselves Christians and still look at other people as though they are inferior."
In her role as the co-creator of the Post’s "On Faith" blog, Quinn is at it again, suggesting on Tuesday Sarah Palin was a rotten Christian in her book Going Rogue. "Palin's book is a screed against everyone who ever done her wrong." She jokes nastily that maybe it was God’s plan for Palin to "go rogue" from the tenets of Christianity:
"This week's abortion conversation is about politics. Let's not pretend it's about anything else," Newsweek's Lisa Miller huffed in a November 18 Newsweek.com post, complaining about how the moral issues surrounding abortion are taking on a life of their own in the health care debate.
We suffer, this week, from a moral myopia. Thanks to the passage in Congress of a health-reform bill, abortion is in the news again, but with the same old warriors brandishing their same old spears.
But while Miller went on to list both pro-life and pro-choice "old warriors," it's hard to believe her beef is with both sides of that fight equally. Miller laments that:
Our entire health-care system (and the proposed reform) is rife with "complex moral issues." To activate our consciences only in the realm of abortion relieves those consciences of too much responsibility.
Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller, contributing to her magazine’s “20/10” list of top 10 cultural moments of the past decade, revisited the “furor surrounding...[the] alleged anti-Semitism” of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, and concluded “the film is, in fact, anti-Semitic.” Miller also accused Gibson of making “Jesus in his own image.”
The 2004 film was number eight on Newsweek’s list of cultural moments, and the religion editor began her synopsis by rehashing another of the critics’ main charges about the movie- its apparent glorification of violence: “Mel Gibson’s pious gorefest The Passion of the Christ may not be remembered for all the controversy it courted upon its release, or for its surprise opening-weekend take of $83 million—and perhaps not even for its director’s widely mocked decision to have his actors speak only Latin and Aramaic.” Widely-mocked? How did she come to that conclusion? More than a few outlets, including the notoriously liberal NPR, noted how the movie revived interest in Aramaic, the language spoken by the Jews in the 1st century AD.
With those lines of criticism of the way, Miller moved on to the criticism which she bought the most- its supposed anti-Semitism: “Nor will The Passion be chiefly remembered for the furor surrounding its alleged anti-Semitism. (The film is, in fact, anti-Semitic. Those most thirsty for Jesus’s blood are the Jews whose brown teeth and matted hair disallow any individuality. Meanwhile, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—who, according to history, did sentence Jesus to death—is as soulful and ambivalent as Hamlet.).”
I haven’t seen “The Blind Side” yet, so I won’t say anything about the quality of the film. But based on the trailer and the true story, my wife and I are as excited about this as any film in a long time. It tells the true story of the adoption of Michael Oher by the Tuohy family in Tennessee and how they helped him go from homeless teenager to professional football star. The book was incredible, the story miraculous. We’re especially excited because we’re big adoption advocates, currently in the middle of our first of many planned adoptions. Also, the Tuohys happen to be conservative Christians like we are, and we don’t normally get to see families like that on screen, at least in movies that are watchable.
Apparently, this makes me a racist.
You see, Michael Oher happens to be black, and the Tuohys happen to be white. I actually think that’s pretty cool, especially because they live in Tennessee, and what gets us farther from the evil days of segregation than an increased number of mixed-race families? One would assume that liberals especially would be excited about that, right?
Headline wording choice can set the tone for liberal bias, and a November 18 Washington Post Style front-pager is a classic example.
Profiling Pentecostal preacher Bishop Harry Jackson, the Post titled staffer Wil Haygood's story "Seeking to put asunder," an obvious allusion to Jesus's declaration about the holy nature of matrimony (Matthew 19:4-6 KJV):
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Of course, that scriptural passage succinctly illustrates Jackson's point: Christian doctrine regarding marriage is that "from the beginning" God's design was one man and one woman in a "one flesh" union, but the effect of the headline's allusion is the same. The paper is portraying Jackson as a man who aims to "put asunder" loving, committed gay couples who are "married."
Openly gay actor Ian McKellen recently told Details magazine that he proudly defaces Bibles left in hotel nightstands, ripping out pages containing verses which condemn homosexual behavior. USA Today's Leslie Miller picked up on this yesterday for the paper's "Faith & Reason" blog, after spying a blog post by colleague Barbara De Lollis in a November 16 post for her Hotel Check-In blog for USA Today.
For her part, De Lollis relayed the news item and wondered, "Could word of McKellen's habit spark a movement?" De Lollis went on to ask: